Having trouble with Catullus Poem

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Discus: SAT/ACT Tests and Test Preparation: October 2003 Archive: Having trouble with Catullus Poem
By Techieguy (Techieguy) on Tuesday, October 07, 2003 - 11:16 pm: Edit

I am having trouble with this poem. Actually i'm analyzing/studying a lot of poems for Catullus right now but this one is giving me most trouble. There was an old thread about Catullus but it seemed to have died.

Basically, Catullus explains his trip back from the East on a ship, which is personified and given life.

You don't really have to read whole translation

The yacht you see, my friends,
says that she was once the fleetest of ships,
and that there was never any timber afloat whose speed
she was not able to pass, whether she would fly
with oar-blades or with canvas
And this (says she) the shore of the blustering Adriatic
does not deny, nor the Cyclades isles
and famous Rhodes and the wild Thracian
Propontis, nor the gloomy gulf of Pontus,
where she who was afterwards a yacht was formerly
a leafy forest: for on the height of Cytorus
she often rustled with talking leaves.
Pontic Amastris and Cytorus greeen with box,
my galley says that all this was and is well-known to thee;
she says that from her earliest birthtime
she stood on thy summit
in thy waters first dipped her blades,
and thence over so many riotous seas
brought her owner, whether the breeze from left or right
invited, or Jove came down astern
on both sheets at once;
and that no vows to the gods of the shore
were made by her all the time she wa s sailing from the furthest sea
even to this limpid lake.
But these things are past and gone; now she rests
in old age and retired leisure, and dedicates herself to thee,
twin Castor, and to thee, Castor's twin.

Ok, I don't get why he describes the ship having a life. It is suppose to describe his own life, right?

And why put in Cyclades, Adriatic Sea, etc. These are places the Argonauts went through to get Golden Fleece... but how does this relate to his poem.

I am thinking that he addresses Castor and Pollux at the end because they were patrons and protectors of sailors?

In what way does the ship's journey reflect human experience?

By Anduin (Anduin) on Wednesday, October 08, 2003 - 03:25 am: Edit

This is a very cool poem, probably my favorite of the half-dozen I've done so far in my Catullus and Horace class.

This narrative does not describe a particular journey, but a series of episodes in the entire life of the boat. I'm not sure about all of the geographical references, but the mentions of Mt. Cytorus and the nearby seaport of Amastris (on the Black Sea) refer to the origin of the ship, from when it was just a bunch of trees. Even as a grove of trees, this yacht's wood was special (it seems to speak).

Castor and Pollux are significant in a lot of ways. First and foremost, as you said, they are protectors of ships. Also, the myth of C and P said that because Castor was born immortal and Pollux mortal, they switched off daily, one dead and one alive. This allusion to the daily switching off highlights the constancy of the boat's service. Also, the fact that Catullus focuses on Castor, the immortal twin, further emphasizes the almost immortal extent of his yacht's long life.

How it reflects the human experience? I thought that it might have something to do with respect for the past glories and achievements of older people and objects, but this seems like an awfully mature perspective for a 22-year-old poet.

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